Social networks have caused a huge shift in how companies frame and execute their business. The success of Best Buy’s Twelpforce blurred the lines between marketing and customer service, using videos that feature the 1,000+ Best Buy employees on Twitter offering efficient, direct service. Dell’s Outlet on Twitter earned $9 million in sales.
Is there really ROI in the social-media space? Yes, there is.
Yet without expertise, this social business culture can be challenging — perhaps even becoming a time sink rather than a profit center. We’ve contacted the speakers and panelists of SOBCon2010 — a yearly think tank of the top social-media strategists, thought leaders, and practitioners — to ask their advice on social-media best practices. Our questions were aimed at how to get the best return on social-media resources in raising awareness and building customer relationships, as well as in direct returns.
These interviews appear as part of our upcoming special report, “Driving Your Bottom Line.” The first part of the report publishes on Tuesday, March 23, and the second part will be sent out on Thursday, March 25; if you’re not already a SmartBrief on Social Media subscriber, sign up today so you won’t miss them!
What does a company need to do to build thought leadership, awareness and community in the social-media space?
Liz Strauss: It seems like every leader has his or her own special way of saying it, but in the end, doesn’t it all come down to relationships? In 2007, the year we started SOBCon, I wrote a post about it that included this sentence, “Every business is relationships, and relationships are everyone’s business.” Without leadership, awareness, and community, social media is tools. Tools are only as good as the people who use them.
Hank Wasiak: First, companies have to make a fundamental change in the way they see social media. Social media started out as being viewed as another form of promotion … part of the media mix. Social media has morphed into the fifth pillar “P” of the marketing mix: People. Next, companies must place a priority on developing a people strategy that is viewed as importantly as the other four “P”‘s in the marketing mix: product, price, place and promotion. Then, make the necessary systemic changes that will affect everything, including how business planning is approached, marketing departments are organized and integrated marketing programs are created and executed. Finally, adopt new metrics of success that reflect these new rules of engagement.
Alexandra Levit: Taking the time and having the patience to build authentic relationships is the name of the game. You have to be out there offering helpful content and resources for free for a long time before you will develop a following. And you have to understand that of the people who follow you, only some will actually buy products or services from you. Companies have to be willing to openly engage with community members via blog comments, Twitter responses, etc. Putting your messages out there without regard to community reaction will simply not do.
Lisa Haneberg: The biggest reason internal social-media efforts fail is that they remain a push [system] versus a pull system. In other words, those that think these tools are a great idea convince stakeholders to give them a try, they launch the tools, they beg people to participate, and then they continue to beg people to participate. If the system continues to be driven by a few evangelists, it may never become a real community. To create more pull — users willingly and passionately using the social-media tools and wanting to learn more about how they can affect their work — the community needs to tap into what we know builds adoption and ownership in other aspects of our businesses. This includes that the tools are highly helpful, challenging, interesting, easy to use, flexible and that they allow for users to customize the environment to suit their needs. Early adopters must put their tendency to try and control the social-media environment (fueled by well-intended passion for the tools) in check or they will push their way into irrelevance.
Chris Garrett: First, they need to be visible where their community hangs out, and secondly, they need to contribute. It is very important this contribution is seen as valuable and adding something worthwhile, rather than simply broadcasting talking points. The company also needs to be seen to be listening and open to conversation, as being in social media raises the expectation that a real human being is behind the social-media account.
L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine: Before they even jump into the social spaces, they need to listen. Listen to the conversations of their targeted audience, understand their habits to understand how to engage them, then figure out how they can join the conversation — and once they see a bridge from them to the conversation, they need to know what they’re going to say after they cross.
Drew McLellan: That’s, of course, a loaded question. Let’s assume the company does, in fact, possess the expertise to be leaders in their field. That’s [a] given. Unfortunately, many companies believe that’s all it takes: Be smart and spew your smartness. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t work in any space, but it definitely would not fly in the social-media realm. I think to create and maintain a genuine position of thought leadership for the long haul, it starts with a servant’s heart. You have to truly believe that someone’s world (personal or business) would be better if they just understood and could master (fill in the blank here with your expertise). So you want to figuratively climb the highest social-media mountains to shout the good news. And you are willing to freely share the information — just because you believe that people will benefit from it. I’m not naïve enough to think that’s the only reason. Of course, it’s good for business as well.
But the good for business has to be the “as well” or it won’t work. It comes off forced and manipulative. You build community and awareness by reaching out to people. By inviting them into your social-media spaces (blog, Facebook, Twitter … whatever) and you visit them in their social-media spaces. You create relationships, not just between you and them but also among them. And then they tell other people about the community and it grows and flourishes … as long as your intentions stay genuine.
Terry Starbucker: If a company is going succeed in this medium, they need to look at it as a process of hitting “value targets” — a progression that ultimately gets to revenue generation. The process, as I see it:
- Polite and respectful engagement, which I call “reaffirming our faith in humanity.”
- Injecting humor, with a willingness to be self-deprecating.
- Providing pertinent and timely information.
- Acting as a teacher.
- Inspiring and challenging.
This builds the kind of transparency and trust that should allow for directly asking for the sale.
Want more? Be sure to check out Part 2 of the interview!
- Chris Garrett is a professional blogger, Internet marketing consultant, new-media industry commentator, writer, coach, speaker, trainer and Web geek.
- Lisa Haneberg is the vice president and OD consulting practice lead for Management Performance International, where she manages the planning and growth of MPI’s organizational development business unit.
- Alexandra Levit is the author of “MillennialTweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Managing the Millennial.”
- Drew McLellan created McLellan Marketing Group in 1995.
- L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine, is the chief evangelist for leading news-aggregation site Alltop and the founder of Hawaii-based media marketing company Pono Media.
- Terry Starbucker is a service-company executive and a founder of SOBCon and author of Ramblings from a Glass Half Full.
- Liz Strauss is the CEO and a founder of SOBCon and author of Successful-Blog.com.
- Hank Wasiak is the co-founder of The Concept Farm. Wasiak is also a best-selling author, keynote speaker, teacher, an Emmy-nominated producer and three-time Emmy award-winning television host.
Image credit, YellowPixel, via Shutterstock